It came as a shock in 1980 to see John Mills, star of many a classic British film ( 'Ice Cold In Alex', 'Ryan's Daughter', 'The History Of Mr.Polly', 'Great Expectations' among others ) appearing in a television sitcom. Created and written by Vince Powell, 'Young At Heart' owed a great debt to his earlier hit 'For The Love Of Ada' ( which starred Irene Handl and Wilfred Pickles ) in that it centred around married pensioners. The pilot went out in August 1977 and starred Jimmy Jewel and Thora Hird. Neither made it into the series. In the first episode, Albert Collyer ( Mills ) is about to retire after fifty years working in a Stoke-On-Trent pottery. He brags to all and sundry he expects to get a 'golden handshake' ( a large pay-out ), but instead all he receives from the manager ( Geoffrey Palmer ) is a carriage clock and a thank you. With time weighing heavily on his hands, he looks around for other interests, but other than football, the pub, and meddling in the lives of his neighbours the Charltons ( David Neilson and Carol Leader ) has none. He's also a bit of a miser, forever moaning about rising prices and the smallness of his pension, and his wife Ethel ( Megs Jenkins ) finds him a right pain now that he is home all day.
The character of 'Albert' was similar to the one Mills played in the Boulting Brothers film 'The Family Way' ( 1966 ). He would smoke his pipe, shake his newspaper indignantly, and go off on a tangent about something or other, only to be deflated by his wife's sharp tongue. Despite his age ( 65 ), he still felt old enough to try and look for work; in one episode, he tried for a job at a garden centre. Asked what experience he had of working with plants, he replied with a straight face: "I once kept a window box!".
The Charltons were like younger versions of the Collyers, and fulfilled much the same purpose as Barbara Mitchell and Jack Smethurst in 'Ada'. Rather oddly, they were gone by time Season 3 went out, their absence never properly explained.
'Heart' was especially popular with old people, and ran for three seasons. Mills, though 72, was particularly good, and one wonders why he never did another sitcom. Jenkins, with whom he'd starred in 'The History Of Mr.Polly' ( a film Mills produced ), made a good foil for him. She was also to be found around this time in the children's series 'Worzel Gummidge' which starred the great Jon Pertwee.
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